TOWNSEND -- Sue and Ken Gerken have dedicated much of their lives to serving the Townsend community.
Now, that community is giving something back to them.
The Gerkens were chosen as this year's recipients of the William E. May Endowment Award, given annually to Townsend residents who devote their time to the betterment of the community.
"We both feel that in volunteering, we get more than we give, because there's so much joy," Susan Gerken said.
Ken Gerken added, "Working with people is the fun part."
The Gerkens, who live in a 160-year-old house in West Townsend, spent time since retirement in volunteering with various local organizations, including the Senior Center, Townsend Historical Society, Townsend United Methodist Church and the Townsend Ecumenical Outreach Food Pantry. They have also worked with Habitat for Humanity in Townsend and elsewhere.
The William E. May Endowment Award was established in 2001 and named after retired Townsend Police Chief William May. The fund and the award are administered by the Friends of the Townsend Seniors.
Although Sue Gerken normally sits on the Friends of the Townsend Seniors committee that chooses the award recipient, she stepped away from the committee this year upon learning that she was nominated.
The Gerkens will be honored at an award ceremony and dinner at the Townsend Ridge Country Club on Oct. 26. All of their seven children and six grandchildren will be coming into town for the ceremony.
Tickets for the award ceremony can be purchased for $50 by contacting the Senior Center. All the money raised from ticket sales will go to the William E. May Endowment Fund, which can be used to fund projects at the Senior Center.
The keynote speakers at the ceremony will be Paul and Judy Concemi. Paul Concemi is a former Townsend selectman and chairman of the Finance Committee, while Judy Concemi served on both the Finance Committee and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Sue Gerken said that to her, the award recognizes how her contributions fit in with those of others in the community, and not her personally.
"It's very humbling. It's hard to have a spotlight on us. Ninety-nine percent of volunteers don't do it for the recognition. We see there's a need and we try to do our part to help fill the need," Sue said.
Ken Gerken said he is grateful that they are both in good enough health to be able to help where needed.
Donna Miller, president of the Friends of the Townsend Seniors, said the Gerkens were given the award for their work with a variety of town organizations.
"It was well deserved because both of them do so many wonderful things for seniors, and just for anyone who needs help. They are just wonderful people who are always giving," Miller said.
Lindsay Morand was a member of the selection committee for the award. She said the Gerkens exemplify the selflessness that recipients of the award always have.
"They are the greatest givers in town because they give their time and service to so many organizations in town. Every day they are doing something for someone," Morand said.